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A Baby Is Not Just a Consumer Choice
While stuck in a hotel room in Ottawa earlier this summer, I was completely disappointed once again at the lack of good shows on television. I KNOW there's nothing on, despite the 60 odd channels, but that didn't stop me from hoping that that weekend will be different. That weekend I would find back to back episodes of What Not To Wear, punctuated by Little House on the Prairie reruns and awesome movies. Not going to happen.

But one show I tend to like is Til Debt Do Us Part, hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Each episode she takes a couple that has failed to learn the vital lesson, "Don't buy stuff you can't afford", and she tells them basic things, like: don't use credit cards. Budget. Live within that budget. And spend cash. It's not rocket science, but so many of us don't do it because the lure of getting stuff fast, with little effort, is everywhere.

I usually agree with what she says except in two areas. One is childcare; and the other is parenting in general. I've seen shows where she has told a mom who is home with three kids that she has to go to work to get out of debt. First, working doesn't always contribute that much to the family income, depending on the cost of childcare, and whether you need a second vehicle, or more clothes. But also, having a mom at home is important. You can't put a price on it, and if a woman feels called to stay home, she shouldn't be told she should work.

Of course, she may have to severely cut back her lifestyle. That would be my first choice before going to work. Live in a 2-bedroom apartment for a while and pay down debt. Get rid of the car and take the bus. I did it for five years and through three pregnancies. It can be done. You don't need that townhouse from day one.

But in that hotel room I saw a show where she actually counseled a couple not to have children at all. They were in debt, but not severe debt, and the woman really wanted to be a mom. She was around 41 or 42, so in vitro was going to be necessary. Perhaps that should have ruled it out anyway, but Gail's reasonings for not having a child had little to do with the woman's age and everything to do with money. Certainly the in vitro would cost $6000, but a child would cost $12,000 over the first year. And they didn't have that in their budget.

Forget about this woman's age for a minute and just listen to that reasoning. If a child costs $12,000, does that mean you shouldn't have a child if you don't have money set aside? Few people that I know had that kind of money when their first child was born. What they did was simply made sure that the child did not cost $12,000. My kids certainly didn't. We bought our crib second hand for $110. We bought clothes at garage sales and willingly took hand me downs. I bought maternity clothes at second hand stores, and sewed others. We used cloth diapers. I made my own baby food. I breast fed. We lived in a small apartment. I don't think the babies cost that much at all. In fact, they may even have saved us money, because once the kids were born I stopped buying clothes for myself for quite a while and we stopped going out to dinner so much.

Children do not have to be expensive; you just have to watch where your money goes. But let's imagine that they are expensive. Let's imagine that you can't scrimp at all, and they're going to be a big amount out of your budget. Should that be a reason to not have children?

I really struggle with this, because I think one of our primary reasons for existing is to have kids. God said to be fruitful and multiply, and if you are in a marriage, I think you should have children. Some will choose not to, and in some cases that choice may be justified (I have family members who have chosen not to, for instance). But kids are so important. They are the fundamental part of our lives. They're transformational. They're not just choices we make.

And perhaps that's the problem, and that's where Catholics have the leg up on Protestants, so to speak. With birth control, parenthood became a choice. It was never thought of that way before. Every couple had children, because you couldn't NOT have children. Today, with the range of birth control available, it is possible to not be a parent. And once it's a choice, it's a choice that can be labelled as either right or wrong, good or bad, depending on other circumstances. You can be told that to become a parent is actually morally irresponsible and wrong.

I know one couple who have chosen not to become biological parents because she carries a fatal disease, and 25% of their children would get it. So they have become foster parents and adopted through the system instead. In their case, I can understand the decision not to have biological children. But I find the fact that parenthood could be labelled "wrong" in other cases just wrong-headed. I can see that if a couple is hugely in debt, taking two years to pay off that debt partially may be a good idea. But if the woman is already approaching the end of her fertile years, to delay is not only a delay. It is closing the door altogether.

People should not get into insurmountable debt in the first place, and if they didn't, then these problems wouldn't arise. We wouldn't have to worry about whether we absolutely needed two people to work, or whether we should have kids at all, because we would figure out how to do it within our income. Debt makes everything so much harder. But to say that an integral part of one's personhood should now be off-limits isn't right, and it saddens me that we've gotten to the point where everything is viewed in terms of dollar signs, rather than in terms of faith that if we do what God wants, He will provide.

I do not think one should act irresponsibly, but children are a blessing. They are never called anything else in Scripture. My main regret in life will always be, I believe, that I did not have more. If you're short of money right now, I know it's tough. You may have to scale back drastically and live on less. It's no fun. But don't give up on being a parent. It is part of who you were created to be, and if we reduce kids to dollar signs, we leave the Creator out of the picture.

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17 Comments:

At 7:58 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Wonderful post, Sheila. Agreed on all counts!

 

At 9:14 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

When the twins were conceived, my husband was out of work. He was out of work for a year...through six weeks of hospital bedrest and six weeks in the NICU for the babies...what a journey.

I often look back and am so thankful that we didn't have many resources during that season of life. It forced me to focus on what was really important about being a mom, rather than decorating the perfect pottery barn nursery and collecting gadgets.

Instead, I accepted hand-me-downs and prayed a lot that God would prepare my heart to be a mother to these two babies.

 

At 11:16 AM , Blogger Tessa said…

When my husband and I concieved we were living off of his income while I was struggling to make my business cover even just business expenses. We realized that God put that desire into our hearts so we jsut went for it (we figured we'd still have 9 months to prepare anyway).
Well we got a miracle and I got a really wonderful opportunity with my business to work (a LOT) about 1.5 hours away from home. It took some sacrifices for our time but we were able to pay off a bunch of debt and after doing some business after my son was born, I was given the opportunity to be a SAHM. God is good and He will provide.
I have another friend who's husband has been mostly unemployed for the past couple years. They're expecting baby number two, because kids are more important than money. Yes, she will have to go back to work part time after her mat leave and they live on a shoestring budget. But they're happy :)
It's not being "financially responsible" to not listen to God wispering in your ear to have children. It's showing a lack of faith in His plan.

 

At 11:17 AM , Blogger Shana said…

I love this post. We don't ahve a lot of money but my son doesn't want for anything. He has 2 parents who love him and teach him about God. He has clothes on his back and a bed to sleep in and food in his belly. He has the majority of his wants to because I bargain shop and buy used. We chose to become parents because of infertility we had to use meds and testing and other things too and we made it work and God provided the way. Children are the biggest blessing we have.

 

At 12:09 PM , Blogger Dawnmarie said…

I agree with some of your post. Your comment, "People should not get into insurmountable debt in the first place, and if they didn't, then these problems wouldn't arise." is where you lost me. Sometimes debt happens in ways that cannot be helped.

However, Psalm 127:3 is still where I stand on the issue. 8^)

 

At 12:48 PM , Blogger Karen said…

Great post! I completely agree with you. I truly believe that huge debt is a decision. I have watched my oldest daughter and her husband feel the need to have the best of everything (neither were raised this way, I promise). Trading in new cars, constantly upgrading tvs, computers, etc. and purchasing a home they were not ready for.Ugh! - I had to chuckle a little when you talked about your regret of not having more children. I had said that quite often myself -- God was paying attention. After being diagnosed with blocked tubes and not being able to conceive again -- fast forward 12 years with no birth control and I got pregnant at 42. Yes, I was already a grandmother and my youngest was 15 at the time. Believe me I know how much kids can cost, but that was never an issue. I just do without if I need to. Handmedown clothes are wonderful. Okay you can kick me off now - I didn't mean to ramble. Blessings!

 

At 5:01 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

I'm really tired of it being thought of as a Catholic thing to not believe in using birth control. Besides, Catholics use Natural Family Planning, which is really unnatural and still a form of birth control. A lot of us conservative Baptists don't believe in using birth control either, nor do we use UnNatural Family Planning either. We truly do leave the choice about children up to God. That's that way it should be.

 

At 10:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Katy-Anne, I think you miss the point of NFP. It is natural as there are no chemicals, no abortificiants (sp?), etc. Not to mention that it's not 100% - if God wants a couple to be pregnant, it will happen.

But this post isn't about Catholics or Catholic-bashing. The point is that no matter what your professed religion, or lack thereof, having children is a blessing. It shouldn't be a choice that can be labeled right or wrong.

Sheila, I really liked the way you put that. There never used to be a choice, so it was never right or wrong. Now that pills and items made of rubber have made parenthood a choice, we now have parenthood as right or wrong. Despite God's intention. Heather

 

At 2:40 AM , Blogger Salmanshahid said…

Nowadays, credit cards are widely used by a large number of people across the globe. Dubai is a country which is considered as one of the richest countries in the world. According to a study, the per capita income in Dubai is very high as compared to various other countries. Because of the number of rich people there, the credit card holders are also in high numbers.

The major advantage with credit cards in dubai is the convenience as they can be used anywhere including pubs, restaurants, hotels, and retail shops etc. You don’t need to carry cash with you every time. This is a kind of plastic money.

There are numerous banks in Dubai that offer different types of credit cards. Diners credit card is one of the most popular financial instruments that are used in Dubai. It holds a special place for a number of credit card users in Dubai. One major feature associated with is that it is approved by ATO. Therefore, you can also use your account statement of this card as tax invoice.

There is no pre-specified limit attached to this credit card. Moreover, it is pretty much easy to apply for a diners credit card in Dubai. Even you can apply it online. You can also renew your card through Internet.

 

At 9:35 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

Anonymous, I'd love to know what is "natural" about abstaining from sex when you and your husband want to do it just because you "might get pregnant" or what is "natural" about taking your temperature every day. God never designed us to take our temperatures every day to avoid having babies, and he designed us to have sex when we want it, and not deny ourselves because we're at the time of month we might get pregnant. Nothing natural about that.

I know what the post is about, but using so-called natural birth control is also trying to have "control" over a situation God says He wants control in.

 

At 8:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila, what a great post!! While my brother and SIL were thinking about having their first child, my SIL asked me if it really cost that much to have a child since two of her friends spent big $$$$ on baby stuff. They had to have the BEST for their children (sorry but I can't justify a $1000 crib!!). I know that the first child can cost more in a sense, but once you have the 'equipment' you need, you don't need to buy new stuff for the other children! There are so many great garage/consignment sales that you don't have to give up your life savings for your children. Plus you have to remember that a lot of these high cost numbers of raising a child probably include the fact that these parents pay for college/university - I expect that my children will have to work and earn their own money for college (we are planning to help some, but not to completely pay for it!)

Katy Anne, I just wanted to address the issue you brought up, about natural family planning. I think that God gave us knowledge and sensible minds and common sense to use the information we have to make decisions in our life. It's up to us to use His leading in obeying His wishes. If God was trying to tell you that you should not have any more children and you kept on having sex without any method of preventing pregnancy, 9 out of 10 times you would eventually become pregnant because that's how He made our bodies work. You would still be the one taking control by ignoring what God was trying to tell you. Not saying that God can't close a woman's womb (He can, He's God!) but sometimes I think He wants us to listen to His leading and not test Him all the time.
There also comes a point when social responsibility comes into play. I know this may sound severe, but I know a lot families that have the same view as Katy-Anne in regards to birth control (or rather no BC or family planning) and they are having families of 12 to 20 children. I don't see anything wrong with that in and of itself, the problem I have is when these families then depend on social assistance programs to support their family. (by no means am I saying that all large families are like this, I just know a lot that are) I know these programs can help a lot (I love getting a check in the mail as much as anyone else) but when you abuse these systems, I don't think that is right. If that is the only way you can support your family maybe you need to think before you conceive! (I am not talking about being in a tight situation and the Government check pulls you through, that happens and I think God can use those checks as an answer to prayer at times!)
I think that this just goes to show the extremes people go to in regards to planning and non-planning of having children.
Ellen

 

At 8:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila, what a great post!! While my brother and SIL were thinking about having their first child, my SIL asked me if it really cost that much to have a child since two of her friends spent big $$$$ on baby stuff. They had to have the BEST for their children (sorry but I can't justify a $1000 crib!!). I know that the first child can cost more in a sense, but once you have the 'equipment' you need, you don't need to buy new stuff for the other children! There are so many great garage/consignment sales that you don't have to give up your life savings for your children. Plus you have to remember that a lot of these high cost numbers of raising a child probably include the fact that these parents pay for college/university - I expect that my children will have to work and earn their own money for college (we are planning to help some, but not to completely pay for it!)

Katy Anne, I just wanted to address the issue you brought up, about natural family planning. I think that God gave us knowledge and sensible minds and common sense to use the information we have to make decisions in our life. It's up to us to use His leading in obeying His wishes. If God was trying to tell you that you should not have any more children and you kept on having sex without any method of preventing pregnancy, 9 out of 10 times you would eventually become pregnant because that's how He made our bodies work. You would still be the one taking control by ignoring what God was trying to tell you. Not saying that God can't close a woman's womb (He can, He's God!) but sometimes I think He wants us to listen to His leading and not test Him all the time.
There also comes a point when social responsibility comes into play. I know this may sound severe, but I know a lot families that have the same view as Katy-Anne in regards to birth control (or rather no BC or family planning) and they are having families of 12 to 20 children. I don't see anything wrong with that in and of itself, the problem I have is when these families then depend on social assistance programs to support their family. (by no means am I saying that all large families are like this, I just know a lot that are) I know these programs can help a lot (I love getting a check in the mail as much as anyone else) but when you abuse these systems, I don't think that is right. If that is the only way you can support your family maybe you need to think before you conceive! (I am not talking about being in a tight situation and the Government check pulls you through, that happens and I think God can use those checks as an answer to prayer at times!)
I think that this just goes to show the extremes people go to in regards to planning and non-planning of having children.
Ellen

 

At 8:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila, what a great post!! While my brother and SIL were thinking about having their first child, my SIL asked me if it really cost that much to have a child since two of her friends spent big $$$$ on baby stuff. They had to have the BEST for their children (sorry but I can't justify a $1000 crib!!). I know that the first child can cost more in a sense, but once you have the 'equipment' you need, you don't need to buy new stuff for the other children! There are so many great garage/consignment sales that you don't have to give up your life savings for your children. Plus you have to remember that a lot of these high cost numbers of raising a child probably include the fact that these parents pay for college/university - I expect that my children will have to work and earn their own money for college (we are planning to help some, but not to completely pay for it!)

Katy Anne, I just wanted to address the issue you brought up, about natural family planning. I think that God gave us knowledge and sensible minds and common sense to use the information we have to make decisions in our life. It's up to us to use His leading in obeying His wishes. If God was trying to tell you that you should not have any more children and you kept on having sex without any method of preventing pregnancy, 9 out of 10 times you would eventually become pregnant because that's how He made our bodies work. You would still be the one taking control by ignoring what God was trying to tell you. Not saying that God can't close a woman's womb (He can, He's God!) but sometimes I think He wants us to listen to His leading and not test Him all the time.
There also comes a point when social responsibility comes into play. I know this may sound severe, but I know a lot families that have the same view as Katy-Anne in regards to birth control (or rather no BC or family planning) and they are having families of 12 to 20 children. I don't see anything wrong with that in and of itself, the problem I have is when these families then depend on social assistance programs to support their family. (by no means am I saying that all large families are like this, I just know a lot that are) I know these programs can help a lot (I love getting a check in the mail as much as anyone else) but when you abuse these systems, I don't think that is right. If that is the only way you can support your family maybe you need to think before you conceive! (I am not talking about being in a tight situation and the Government check pulls you through, that happens and I think God can use those checks as an answer to prayer at times!)
I think that this just goes to show the extremes people go to in regards to planning and non-planning of having children.
Ellen

 

At 8:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila, what a great post!! While my brother and SIL were thinking about having their first child, my SIL asked me if it really cost that much to have a child since two of her friends spent big $$$$ on baby stuff. They had to have the BEST for their children (sorry but I can't justify a $1000 crib!!). I know that the first child can cost more in a sense, but once you have the 'equipment' you need, you don't need to buy new stuff for the other children! There are so many great garage/consignment sales that you don't have to give up your life savings for your children. Plus you have to remember that a lot of these high cost numbers of raising a child probably include the fact that these parents pay for college/university - I expect that my children will have to work and earn their own money for college (we are planning to help some, but not to completely pay for it!)

Katy Anne, I just wanted to address the issue you brought up, about natural family planning. I think that God gave us knowledge and sensible minds and common sense to use the information we have to make decisions in our life. It's up to us to use His leading in obeying His wishes. If God was trying to tell you that you should not have any more children and you kept on having sex without any method of preventing pregnancy, 9 out of 10 times you would eventually become pregnant because that's how He made our bodies work. You would still be the one taking control by ignoring what God was trying to tell you. Not saying that God can't close a woman's womb (He can, He's God!) but sometimes I think He wants us to listen to His leading and not test Him all the time.
There also comes a point when social responsibility comes into play. I know this may sound severe, but I know a lot families that have the same view as Katy-Anne in regards to birth control (or rather no BC or family planning) and they are having families of 12 to 20 children. I don't see anything wrong with that in and of itself, the problem I have is when these families then depend on social assistance programs to support their family. (by no means am I saying that all large families are like this, I just know a lot that are) I know these programs can help a lot (I love getting a check in the mail as much as anyone else) but when you abuse these systems, I don't think that is right. If that is the only way you can support your family maybe you need to think before you conceive! (I am not talking about being in a tight situation and the Government check pulls you through, that happens and I think God can use those checks as an answer to prayer at times!)
I think that this just goes to show the extremes people go to in regards to planning and non-planning of having children.
Ellen

 

At 8:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

So sorry for all the posts, Sheila could you delete the copies please.
Ellen

 

At 10:27 AM , Blogger Michelle said…

Great post! That's why I prefer Dave Ramsey on financial matters, he never would have told a stay at home mom to go back to work unless the family couldn't eat or something. And he says to never put off having children because of debt. I've heard of the show you mention, it's disappointing to know that she's giving poor advice regarding children:(

 

At 4:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

While I don't agree with everything, I do think it sad that a couple would not have a baby because of financial reasons (although I imagine fertility treatments would complicate things).

I've been able to cut a lot off of our expenses in the years since my daughter was born. I actually save more money now with an extra person, a house payment, and a part-time job than I did when it was just the two of us renting and I worked full-time!

Nurse Bee

 
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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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